Sunday, September 27, 2015

So, I Hear Speaker Boehner is Resigning

Of course, the news is all over, to the glee of the more extreme partisans of both parties and the (possibly faked) dismay of the centroids.

I don't worship Congressmen, as Mark Twain once noted "There is no native criminal class except Congress." Many of his other quotes exude similar disdain.  I think that might be a little strong. I have no particular animus against Boehner, however, but I think he was not particularly effective in getting Republican ideals enacted into legislation. Admittedly, he had a tough road to hoe, without veto proof majorities in Congress, and with a President not noted for graciously compromising.

The point of this post, however, is to compare and contrast two points of view; one from the usually sensible Megan McArdle, who echoes Mick Jagger in saying you can't always get what you want. After a business like lecture on negotiating tactics:
  1. The main obstacle to getting what they want is not the lack of leaders who are willing to fight; the main obstacle to getting what they want is that what they want is well outside the ZOPA (Zone of Possible Agreement). I’m not saying this to taunt my conservative friends; I agree with many of the things they want. But I recognize that there is a wide gap between what I (we) want, and what can be foisted upon the American public by its elected representatives. If I want outcomes closer to my preferences, then the primary problem is not the folks in office, but the preferences of the average American voter. Focusing your attention on politicians, instead of the hearts and minds of your fellow citizens, is like attempting to fix a faulty car engine by swapping out the dashboard gauges.
  2. Intransigence and bold demands do not necessarily get you closer to what you want; they often push you further away. Next year, Republicans will be trying to take back the presidency. A Congress that shuts down a few times or spends all its time passing strong, base-pleasing bills that can’t get past the Senate, much less the president’s veto pen, is not going to improve their chances. And for all the complaints about candidates who are Republican in name only, any of them would deliver more of what the party wants than Hillary Clinton would.
  3. This is really a return to the first: “more of what the party wants” is all you’re going to get. You’re not going to get it all. You live in a country with 300 million people, many of whom have very different desires than you, and, well, welcome to representative democracy. Republicans who currently enjoy their House majority thanks to the previous majority’s Obamacare suicide charge should know this better than anyone.
She's not really very hopeful.

In contrast, or at least right angles, Stephan Miller (who I've never heard of before, sorry) has this to say: John Boehner Never Adapted to the New Generation of Media and Politics
Boehner’s exit isn’t so much a sea change in party ideology as it is a generational beacon. Boehner represents an aged cliche of “Boardwalk Empire”-style GOP politicians sipping on brandy, chomping on tobacco in dark oak paneled smoke filled rooms and coming to political agreements on handshakes. Barack Obama’s Alinsky street fight tactics changed all of that, and Boehner’s backroom, down home gentleman style never adapted.
Having watched the mass murder scenes at the end of Boardwalk Empire's 3rd season just last night, I think that bordered on a smear; but was still amusing.
It was never so much about Boehner screwing over the base and lighting cigars with donation dollars as much as it was about not adapting to a playing field of new politics and new media that had completely shifted under his feet. When a younger, bolder GOP base more focused on grass roots and social media stood up in insurrection, he of course handled them about as well as he did Obama.

Upon Boehner’s exit, Obama was quoted saying that he “has always conducted himself with courtesy and civility with me. He has kept his word when he has made a commitment,” which is no different than beating him over the head with a bat for seven years, and then handing him that bat as a going away present. But if Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, as well as their many acolytes in media think this is somehow a fracturing of the Republican party’s establishment and its frustrated base, they’d be wise to rethink their position.

Boehner’s exit removes a maligned distraction heading into a generational presidential election for a party that is attempting to find its soul, and finding it more with the younger faces of the 2010 and 2014 midterms than the 2008 presidential election.
One is a word of caution not to expect to much; and one a word of hope to demand better. Both messages are worth heeding.

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